Reeves Chapel UMC Takes Rural Ministry to a New Level

Date Posted: 12/11/2014

Members of Reeves Chapel UMC, Pittsburg often see Rev. Melissa Crawford praying with someone on the street, in a store or wherever her new relationship begins. This sensitivity to others beyond church walls is as natural to her as breathing, and the life changing impact is obvious. Some of the members are beginning to follow her lead. Her heartfelt conviction: “Modeling outreach to me is one of the greatest, successful leadership traits a pastor can possess. If a church is not involved in outreach then it is simply not the Church. A church not involved in missions will in time cease to exist or have no Christian impact on the world.”
This mentality makes the size of the church irrelevant. “One of the immediate questions I ask a person when I meet them for the first time is if they have a home church,” she adds. “If they do, I then encourage them to attend and be a contributing part of their church; if they do not have a church home I invite them to attend Reeves Chapel. My fellow members are now beginning to ask the same question of people they know or meet.”
According to Melissa, “Reeves Chapel’s focus is shifting from -- we are a ‘small’ church of senior adults located in the country -- to we are a ‘smaller’ church as David R. Ray defines, The Indispensable Guide for Smaller Churches that is the right size to be and do all that God created congregations to be and do.  If all churches could grasp this, they could then enjoy working together without feeling inferior or superior and simply be the Church.”

Stories of God at Work
When a sermon was introduced by viewing a video newscast spotlighting the plight of the hungry, it touched the hearts of leaders in the pew like Reba Montgomery.  Shares Reba, “When we realized many of our local families might be out of money by the end of the month, we put together meals and began looking for those who might be in need of help.” She adds, “One lady told us she was standing in her kitchen looking for something to feed her family of five when we showed up with a bag of food. When another lady shared that she had just buried her son, we were able to cry and pray with her.” Reba is blessed to hear many of the life stories of families impacted so far by this act of kindness. “Our mission outreach “Food for our Neighbors” may not be feeding thousands,” she says, “but we are touching many who feel they have been forgotten.”
Attending Reeves Chapel UMC Community Bible Study has been a joy for Jenny Boyko. “The church is open and friendly to newcomers, like me, who attend other churches. I have observed the way church members care for people they discover in need - - mostly those outside their own church family. This church does not just cater to its own, but reaches out with long loving arms to all God’s children! They are salt and light.”
Investing in the Young
When leaders at Reeves Chapel begin dreaming and building a playground for the children in the church, it drew children from the surrounding countryside as well. Billie Jo Carpenter stepped out to lead a new playground ministry and within a week of inviting other young moms, the playground hosted an average of 22 children and adults with one Wednesday attendance soaring to 34. Continued generosity landed the pastor a used van that can bring an additional six to eight children to the Wednesday evening ministry and Sunday school. The van has also been put to use helping a member haul supplies for home repairs and local food delivery. Adds Melissa, “Some of the children attending are now bringing their parents and grandparents back to church, who in turn are now working faithfully in various ministries of the church.”
The ripple effect continues. The ladies at Reeves Chapel UMC have been sewing for years averaging over a thousand school bags a year for UMCOR Sager-Brown. Some of the moms from the playground ministry asked for a sewing ministry, which is in the process of being developed on the order of a "homemaking" outreach ministry and will become the newest ministry of the church.
“When the youth launched their first annual Christmas mission outreach in 2013, it was contagious for the adults to see the youth each Sunday bringing their piggy banks, recycled medicine bottles, pocketbooks full of coins and placing them in the big football mug for the purchase,” For the purchase of what?? adds Melissa. This year youth are providing food and appreciation?? to local emergency personnel and providing socks to the residents of a local nursing home.
Men at Work
Reeves Chapel men work countless hours with Trustee Chair Horace Reaves in the annual fish fry and bake auction, and help keep the facility in working condition. Additionally, member Tommy Ellison has advanced from a lay servant to a certified lay minister who preaches when needed and member Kenneth Taft lends his passion to serving on mission trips. 
A “Go for it” Mentality
Rev. Crawford believes every member at Reeves Chapel is gifted and alert as to how they may do more. “Their committed, selfless acts are ensuring Reeves Chapel will remain a vital congregation for generations to come. The heart of the church is being touched through the word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit that generates new outreach mission fields. My response to members’ new ideas is: Go for it.”
Member Joan Doss shares, “I had prayed day and night for the Lord to lead me to a Methodist church nearby. Reeves Chapel has been a lifesaver to me.” Others confirm that hospitality is a hallmark of Reeves Chapel. Lois Tear adds, “This church is a light to the people who live in this community, meeting the need of the hungry with meals and God’s word.  Children, seniors and young adults are reached with Bible study and activities. We have found the church to have prayer warriors to help when problems overwhelm us.”
When Pam Goforth joined the Tuesday morning Bible Study, she met wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. Notes Pam, “The first thing I noticed was this beautiful old church at the end of a country lane, surrounded by pastures, an old cemetery and cattle. It is such an idyllic setting that it seems to me that God has to be present and every time I drive up to this special place, I feel the same.” She adds, “There was no doubt that I was welcome, and having learned so much about the Bible, I am so thankful that God guided me here.”
When it comes to tireless outreach, Rev. Crawford leads by example. She adds, “As long as the church will be, do and go, it will remain vital.  There is no time to waste for we were called for such a time as this.